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More than 17,000 DISD Kids Didn't Show Up for the First Day of School. What Happened?

The first day of school is a rite of passage for the kids who actually make it to the first day.
The first day of school is a rite of passage for the kids who actually make it to the first day.

Every year districts typically fall short of the number of kids expected on the first day. Between personal issues and confusion or simple failure to meet registration deadlines, it's an annual problem most districts have to combat. Approximately 17,448 kids did not show up Monday for the first day of school in Dallas, and 161,000 kids were expected. Last year, 15,588 kids did not show up out of an expected 159,000. That's nearly 11 percent of Dallas kids who did not show up for the first day of school on Monday, compared with 9.8 percent of kids did not show up for the first day last year.

Andre Riley, a spokesman for Dallas ISD, says there are several reasons students don't show up that first day. "Sometimes one of the biggest causes is immunizations. Some students may not have the immunizations that make it so they can attend school," he says. "Some need to go through the registration process. Then you have different family changes. Sometimes they're returning from vacation, sometimes from out of the country."

The district would not speak to the increased percentage of children who didn't show up compared with last year. Bearing in mind that no district will ever have perfect attendance on the first day, or any day for that matter, DISD has been working to reduce the no-show problem. And it certainly can't be blamed on a lack of communication: The district unrolls an aggressive plan each summer to ensure kids show up the first day of school, and works with the city for back-to-school projects and mail campaigns.

"Throughout the summer and heading up into the weeks before the first day of school, we reach out to families. We encourage them to be there," Riley says. "We host a lot of events before the first day where they can meet a teacher, and explore the school. We just really make a good strong push to raise awareness of that first day of school."

For now, the number of missing first-day kids must be chalked up to individual circumstances. Riley says that while it's difficult to play catch-up, most kids tend show up by the end of the week, or by Labor Day. When the kids eventually do show up, teachers must scramble to initiate them into the classroom settings.

Latecomers, meanwhile, may be piled with a heavier workload, depending on the grade and class, and teachers must be able to accommodate the student. "My experience working in urban school districts is that many of our districts struggle to bring kids back on the first day," Riley says. "There's a lot of hurdles to cross. But you continue to encourage our families, and get them up to speed."


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